OFTA helps minimise “mobile phone bill shock”

By Victor Tse


With the growing popularity of smart phones and other internet-enabled mobile devices, the temptation to access online content has never been greater.  However, for those less technically savvy, inadvertent or unintentional use of mobile data services often leads to an unexpectedly high mobile bill.  This phenomenon, also known as “mobile bill shock”, is a growing problem in Hong Kong.

In the first half of 2010, the Hong Kong Office of Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) received 348 complaints concerning billing disputes over the inadvertent or unintentional use of mobile data services (compared with 337 similar cases in the whole of 2009).  To tackle this problem, in May 2010, OFTA wrote to all mobile operators in Hong Kong to urge them to implement measures to help prevent “mobile bill shock”, including: (i) the ability to opt-out of services, (ii) setting charge ceilings, (iii) setting usage caps for usage-based mobile services, and (iv) alerting customers when their usage threshold is reached.

OFTA recently published a summary of the responses received from a majority of Hong Kong mobile operators who have implemented some or all of the proposed measures.  The initiative appears to have been well received, but its real effectiveness has yet to be seen.